Should I cut the cord on cable?

In the last few years, it's become common for consumers to ditch cable television in favor of streaming services and devices. Many affordable streaming options are available, making it easier for consumers to give up cable without necessarily sacrificing their favorite shows. But there are some drawbacks to relying exclusively on streaming services for television viewing. Consider the following before you decide to cut the cord.

The most obvious benefit of cutting cable is the money you'll likely save each month. Compare what you spend on your monthly bill to how much of your cable subscription you actually use. Are you regularly watching all the channels you pay for, or do you watch only a few of them? Are the channels you watch worth what you pay each month? If not, it might make sense to cancel cable and switch to an alternative entertainment source.

You may decide to replace cable with a streaming service or device. In addition to being less expensive than cable, most services are user-friendly. You won't need to flip through hundreds of channels to find your favorite shows, and as long as you have an Internet connection, you can view them on the go on your cell phone or tablet. Plus, streaming services typically let you stop and start month to month without termination fees.

But depending on your viewing preferences, a streaming service might not be the right option for you. There is often a delay in the online release of many television shows, which can be frustrating for dedicated viewers. And if you're a sports fan, you might be disappointed to learn that you won't have access to live sports coverage through most streaming services. Comprehensive sports packages are offered by some services, but they can be expensive and are not available in all regions.

Another disadvantage of switching to streaming is that you may need to subscribe to multiple packages or invest in special streaming devices to access the programs you want. You might also consider the cost of high-speed Internet — you won't be able to stream without a relatively fast Internet connection. Between multiple subscriptions and reliable Internet, the cost of streaming can add up quickly. Be sure to compare prices and take advantage of any free-trial offers.

How can I save money on my cell phone plan?

Paying your monthly cell phone bill might feel like a necessary evil: You can't live without your cell phone, but you don't like the steep price of your plan. Fortunately, there are ways to save money on your plan without sacrificing the cell phone services you need.

Review your monthly bill. Aligning what you're paying for with what you're actually using can go a long way in saving money on your plan. Look at your bill to get a breakdown of your average data consumption, as well as the number of phone calls and text messages you send/receive in one month. This will help you determine whether your activity levels match your plan. If, for example, you're paying for unlimited data each month but use only five gigabytes, on average, then it might make sense to decrease the data limit on your plan. Or if you depend on unlimited data, consider ways in which you can lower the amount you use. Turn cellular data off in your app settings and connect to Wi-Fi whenever possible to dramatically reduce data usage.

Research discount options. Ask your employer or your cell phone service provider to see if you're eligible for employee discounts. Members of the military, veterans, and senior citizens may also receive discounts, depending on the provider.

Sign up for a different plan. Most carriers offer plans that allow you to share data and minutes with others. These are often referred to as family plans, though you don't need to be related to someone in order to join your accounts. You might also consider prepaid cell phone plans, which generally don't require credit checks or contracts, and don't have data overage fees. Many types of prepaid plans are available on the market, so look at different ones to determine what works best for you.

Switch to an alternative carrier. Before you make the switch, though, indicate to your current provider that you want to cancel — you may be offered a deal for continuation of service. If not, keep in mind that many alternative carriers offer promotions exclusively to new customers. Make sure you know how long the promotion will last and what your monthly costs will be when it ends.

*Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (“CFS”), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. Redwood Credit Union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union Members.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2018.